Russia World Cup Preview | Group A

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Ray Burton
Ray writes mostly in-depth analytical pieces covering a range of sports from a more statistical perspective drawing his inspiration from the fanalytics movement. Ray writes on the NFL, Premier League, MLB, NHL, NBA, and NRL.

As hosts, great things will be expected of this Russia team. However, they are one of the weakest Russian teams we’ve seen in many years and will struggle to live up to the fans expectations. However, they have been very lucky with the group draw, with only Uruguay to challenge them for the group win.

A very friendly draw has them looking towards the last 16, although progress past that round would be a real feat to behold. That said, they haven’t played a game in anger since 2016 unless you count the Confederations Cup. So they might be slightly under-rated.

Russia Squad Outlook

Igor Akinfeev, Vladimir Gabulov, Soslan Dzhanaev, Andrey Lunev; Vladimir Granat, Sergei Ignashevich, Fedor Kudryashov, Ilya Kutepov, Roman Neustadter, Konstantin Rausch, Andrey Semenov, Igor Smolnikov, Mario Fernandes; Yuri Gazinskiy, Alexsandr Golovin, Alan Dzagoev, Alexsandr Erokhin, Yuri Zhirkov, Daler Kuzyaev , Roman Zobnin, Alexsandr Samedov, Anton Miranchuk, Alexsandr Tashaev, Denis Cheryshev; Artem Dzyuba, Aleksey Miranchuk, Fedor Smolov, Fedor Chalov.

Squad Talk: One of the weakest Russian squads we’ve seen in many a year, probably wouldn’t have managed to qualify for the finals from a strong European pool. Automatically qualified as hosts, they still have a few good players that will be looking to shine on home soil.

 

Star Player

Fedor Smolov is the Russian player on the rise. In the fight for a third consecutive golden boot in the Russian Premier League. He’s notched 20,18 and 14 (so far) in the last three domestic seasons. He’s buckled down in the last three years and committed himself to his game, and the improvements have been impressive.

His all-around game is solid, with him equally comfortable passing and shooting. His game would be well suited to a move to one of the bigger European leagues, and he’ll be looking to put himself right in the shop window this summer.

Who’s The Gaffa

Stanislav Cherchesov represented a very clear shift in thinking for the Russian FA. After dabbling with the big names, expensive foreign coaches like Fabio Capello and Guus Hiddink, they have reverted to a native Russian. It won’t be pretty with Cherchesov at the helm. He’s a defense-minded, ex-goalkeeper who can be expected to pack the defense first and attack if they chance presents.

With 5 wins, 5 draws and 9 defeats so far as Russia coach, there have been just 54 goals in those games. Previously a club manager in Russia and Poland, he’s never really climbed the heights of domestic management. Don’t underestimate him though, he’s tactically astute and he will make Russia very difficult to beat.

Editors Opinion

Likely Group Finish: 2nd Place

This is a tricky one to call because the Russians don’t look particularly strong, but they are the home nation. They have been blessed with an easy group on paper, and there is no way they shouldn’t get out of the group. The only question is whether the home crowds will lift their performances, or make them feel the pressure. I’m just leaning towards the former.

Lazy Fan Fact: Russia’s best ever finish in the World Cup was in 1966 when they finished 4th. England won the World Cup that year (in case you’ve forgotten)

 

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